Swallowing is something you do hundreds of times every day without even thinking about it – it’s just like breathing in that regard. When you have a problem with your swallowing, it can be very upsetting, and it’s more common than you might think. Anything from a specific illness to dehydration can cause problems swallowing, also known as dysphagia, and some will be more temporary than others.
No matter what the cause of how long it lasts, dysphagia can be upsetting and even frightening. There are things you can do to help yourself, however; read on to find out more.
In the majority of cases, if you have a problem with swallowing, it won’t be serious – you might be dehydrated, or perhaps you don’t chew your food well enough. It could be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which means that stomach acid or bile flows into the esophagus. It might even be a side effect of the medication you are taking. Then there are the more serious issues, and of the ones that those who are having trouble swallowing might think of first; throat cancer is one of the most worrying.
Whatever the cause, it’s no use speculating about it and getting more and more upset about what might be. The best course of action to take before anything else is to visit your doctor. Explain your symptoms and have them give you an examination to determine the reason for your dysphagia. Only then can you start to think about treatments and what you need to do next.
It is especially important to see your doctor if:
- The dysphagia lasts for longer than a few days
- If you feel as though – or actually have – food caught in your throat
- If you are also having trouble breathing, or you choke or cough when you try to swallow
- If you’re having trouble eating or breathing
Treatments for Dysphagia
The treatment you receive or are recommended once your dysphagia has been investigated will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. If it is found to be something simple, then a simple solution will be possible (dehydration, for example, can be combatted by drinking more water every day, although to begin with, if you are extremely dehydrated, you might need to go into hospital to be put on an IV to help you).
If it is something more complicated or serious, such as throat cancer, then further investigation will need to be carried out, often resulting in surgery.
In many cases, no matter what the reason for the difficulty in swallowing you might have, a liquid diet could be recommended, at least in the short term. This can be difficult to get used to, but it has many benefits and should be considered. Using SimplyThick to make liquid food more enjoyable is a great option that will help you get used to the idea more quickly.
How to Help Yourself
If the dysphagia you are suffering from is not linked to something serious that requires medical assistance, there are several things you can do yourself that will help you and make eating and drinking much easier.
Something you can do if the problem is GERD, for example, is to take antacids. This will control the symptoms of acid reflux and make eating, in general, less painful. You can also sleep in a more upright position (although be careful that you don’t hurt your neck or back by doing this).
Eating smaller meals, chewing more carefully, taking smaller mouthfuls, and ensuring that you don’t eat within three hours of going to bed will also help your dysphagia and is healthier for you in general.